Design Segmentation Studies

We’ve been testing design preferences for more than thirty years.  We’ve learned that consumers do not have a vocabulary through which to express their design preferences.  When asked to describe designs they often use simplistic terms like “busy” or “boring” or “ugly”.  Yet they know what they like and dislike.  What gives rise to their preferences?  We can’t speak to the process in the brain that does this, but we do know that there is a process and there are measurable, consistent, projectable preferences.  This is what we are measuring when we conduct our design studies (see Design Testing section). 

The central point of design tests, of course, is to identify the most desired designs.  That gets complicated by a number of factors.  What if all the designs are very similar?  All florals or all stripes?  What if they are all one color way?  What if they are all of one style – French Country for example?  There’s no point in asking consumers who like minimalism which French Country pattern they like most since they will never buy one.  To prevent this problem, we develop design segmentations, presented to consumers as collages, and we ask people to pick the design segment that best represents the designs they would pick for themselves.  Sometimes, if all we have to test is designs in one segment, we use the segments to screen out everyone who wouldn’t buy a design in that segment.  More often, the designs we are testing are from multiple segments.  Then we cross-tabulate the design segment preferences with the design choices to identify the degree to which those who love French Country are picking the French Country designs. 

This yields valuable information for our clients.  First, it tells them if their French Country designs really are perceived as such by consumers.  Second, it tells them how large the French Country segment is (as well as the sizes of the other segments, of course).  Thus they know that if their only introduction this year is in French Country and French Country appeals to 10% of all consumers, then the maximum reach of their new introductions will be 10% if they are able to secure all the purchases in that segment.  Likewise it enables them to look across all their design offerings to see the percentage of the market they currently address – is it 5%, 50%, 90%, etc.  Finally, we know from experience that designs that have multiple design segment appeal, enjoy broader appeal in general and thus tend to be more successful designs overall.  We advise our clients to use our research to create just such designs.